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  • Writer's pictureMichael Hays

Resisting the Tent Sweep

I remember the first time I grappled with the issue of homelessness when I was a college student in Boston. My developing conscience, flooded with new concepts and ideas during school hours, struggled over the question of how people who I encountered ended up on the streets.

Fast-forward 23 years and I now know this uncomfortable truth: Many, many working people are one or two unfortunate breaks away from being without a permanent indoor place to rest their head. Whether it’s an unexpected divorce, injury, job loss, medical debt, mental illness, or something else, most working-class Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck. Missing just a few pay periods due to calamity can put you behind on rent — fast.

So, this past week’s announcement of a forthcoming “sweep” of a tent encampment along the Schuylkill River Trail has our organization – and many others – wondering what to do next.

Can a legal injunction be successfully awarded in time?

Will a rally or non-violent protest lead Peco and Norristown to reconsider their decision?

Broadly speaking, can we respond to this current crisis of affordable housing fast enough to truly impact people and avoid unnecessary suffering?

Some individuals in positions of power and influence have responded in the usual cowardly ways: 1). Denial that this suffering surrounds us and 2.) Attempts to dehumanize those who suffer economic calamities and live in tents (either by claiming that their personal failures and poor choices have sealed their fate, or by unfairly labeling them as criminals and drug addicts).

In the coming days, The Montco 30% Project will determine what specific actions best align with our goals and this moment. You can stay up-to-date on our Facebook page or this blog.

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